UACES Facebook Leadership Lunch and Learn Book Review of Leaders Eat Last by Dr. Hunter Goodman
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Leadership Lunch and Learn Book Review of Leaders Eat Last by Dr. Hunter Goodman

by Lisa Davis - August 30, 2023

Decorative picture of Leaders Eat Last BookIn case you missed it, Dr. Hunter Goodman, an assistant professor for Community, Workforce, and Economic Development at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture UADA), presented a book review of Leaders Eat Last, Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t written by Simon Sinek.

The review highlighted tidbits from the book.

Watch the recording here.

Awesome ResponsibilityKey words: Empathy  Circle of Safety  When the circle of safety is strong, we naturally share ideas, share intelligence, and share the burdens of stress. Leaders want to feel safe too!

She shared that being a leader is an awesome responsibility. Here are a couple of quotes that highlight what the author means by this.

  • “Every single employee is someone’s son or someone’s daughter. Like a parent, a leader of a company is responsible for their precious lives.”

  • “Being a leader is like being a parent and the company is like a new family to join. One that will take care of us like we are their own…in sickness and in health. And, if we are successful, our people will take on our company’s name as a sign of the family to which they are loyal.”


Sinek makes the argument that evolution has conditioned us to seek out very particular qualities in leaders and the chemicals in our body are communicating to us what those characteristics are.

Based on the chemicals that make us happy, we have a clear idea of the type of leadership that is most effective. Let's go through the four most important.

  • E is for Endorphins. Endorphins are pain-masking chemicals that help us push ourselves through tough circumstances. This is described as the runner’s high.

  • D is for Dopamine. Dopamine is the most dangerous chemical of the four because it is the most satisfying. Alcohol, nicotine, and even cell phones send dopamine through our body whenever we use them, which is what makes those things so highly addictive. Dopamine is what produces that irresistible urge to check every notification on your phone. Each time we clear the notification, respond to the text, or read an email it gives us a boost in dopamine. Since dopamine makes us feel great, we instinctively do things that give us a quick dopamine fix without considering the value of those things.

  • S is for Serotonin—the leadership chemical. Serotonin is the chemical we feel when we are respected, admired, and given preferential treatment. It boosts our confidence and makes us feel awesome. When people see you and respect you as their leader, it boosts your serotonin by making you feel great, and it boosts their serotonin because they trust you.

  • O is for Oxytocin. Oxytocin is the feeling we get from emotional bonds and physical touch. In other words, it’s the warm feeling you feel when you’re spending time with someone you enjoy being around, even if you aren’t doing anything special.

Rules to Addressing Abstraction

The author discusses why abstraction is destructive. Making people abstract by having more “virtual relationships” or viewing employees as statistics causes us to have less regard for them and significantly reduces trust. Goodman shared five rules to managing abstraction.

  • Rule 1. Keep It Real — Bring People Together. Real, live human interaction is how we feel a part of something, develop trust and have the capacity to feel for others. It is how we innovate.

  • Rule 2. Keep It Manageable — Obey Dunbar’s Number. Professor Dunbar figured out that people simply cannot maintain more than about 150 close relationships.

  • Rule 3. Meet the People You Help. As social animals, it is imperative for us to see the actual, tangible impact of our time and effort for our work to have meaning and for us to be motivated to do it even better.

  • Rule 4. Give Them Time, Not Just Money. A leader of an organization can’t simply pay their managers to look out for their employees. A leader can, however, offer their time and energy, and in turn those managers would be more willing to give their time and energy to their subordinates.

  • Rule 5. Be Patient — The Rule of Seven Days and Seven Years. There is no data to say exactly how long it takes to feel like we trust someone. It can take more than seven days, and it can take up to seven years. No one knows exactly how long it takes, but it takes patience.

Leadership Lessons

Goodman shared the following important leadership lessons presented in the book.

  • Leadership Lesson 1: So Goes the Culture, so Goes the Company. Inside a Circle of Safety, when people trust and share their successes and failures, what they know and what they don’t know, the result is innovation. It’s just natural.

  • Leadership Lesson 2: So Goes the Leader, so Goes the Culture. The role of the leader is not to bark commands and be completely accountable for the success or failure of the mission. It is a leader’s job instead to take responsibility for the success of each member of his crew. It is the leader’s job to ensure that they are well trained and feel confident performing their duties. To give them responsibility and hold them accountable to advance the mission.

  • Leadership Lesson 3: Integrity Matters. Building trust requires nothing more than telling the truth. That’s it. No complicated formula. For some reason too many people or leaders of organizations fail to tell the truth or opt to spin something to appear that they did nothing wrong.

  • Leadership Lesson 4: Friends Matter. There is something about getting together out of context that makes us more open to getting to know someone. Whether we’re bonding with colleagues over lunch or on a business trip with someone we don’t know well, when our competing interests are put aside for a while, we seem to be quite open to seeing others as people rather than coworkers or competitors.

  • Leadership Lesson 5: Lead the People, Not the Numbers. The performance of a company is closely tied to the personality and values of the person at the top. And the personality and values of the person at the top set the tone of the culture.

Goodman shared a quote from the book, “Leadership is not a license to do less; it is a responsibility to do more. And that’s the trouble. Leadership takes work. It takes time and energy. The effects are not always easily measured, and they are not always immediate. Leadership is always a commitment to human beings.”

Reference: APA. Sinek, S. (2017). Leaders eat last. Portfolio Penguin.

The Leadership Lunch and Learn Book Review series features leadership experts from across the south. Each presenter reviews a leadership development book. The series gives you the opportunity to hear the cliff notes version of many popular leadership development books. Join us for future book reviews.

Next Webinar

September 27, 2023 – It’s the Manager, reviewed by Dr. Tierney Woodruff, Texas A&M University. Register here.